First of all, I'm using tap water, because I'm lazy. So my first step was to fill the tote with water and then run the air bubbler in it for a day or so in order to allow it to evaporate out the chlorine gas (all city water has some chlorine in it).
Preparing the Storage Tote
I'm using a relatively small tote for this experiment. Make sure it's not clear - neither the lid nor the container itself can be clear. Light breeds algae, and nobody wants that. Drill a few holes in the top using a hole saw that is sized appropriately for your net pots. I'm using 3" net pots, so the 3" hole saw worked perfectly. Drill a 3/8" hole in the side very near the top for your air bubbler tubing. Clean it all up and you're done.
Gotta Wash My Balls
I know, everyone makes this joke. The hydroton grow needs to be washed thoroughly to get all the dust off from manufacturing - they arrive quite dirty. So I just put them in a bucket of water, rinsed them, dumped them in a strainer, and repeated until the water came off mostly clear.
The Nutrient Solution
The next step was to prepare and pH-balance the nutrient solution. I added my hydroponic nutrients - I'm using Botanicare Pure Blend Pro Grow solution. I needed about 22.5ml of nutrients to go with what was approximately 12L of water and tested the pH. I bought a "pH Control Kit" from Amazon that included pH test drops, "pH Down" acid solution, "pH Up" base solution, and a testing vial. I used the "pH Down" to bring the pH of my nutrient solution down to about 6.0 (it should be between 5.5 and 6.5).
Put the air bubbler in the nutrient solution, connect the air pump, and put the lid on.
Transplanting the Seedlings - From Peat Pellets to Net Cups with Hydroton
I grew my basil seedlings in large jiffy peat pellets. This worked out great because it allowed the roots to grow fairly deep and after 4-5 weeks of growing in the window, I've got some good roots going. So I peeled off the cloth and then gently washed away all (most) of the peat, leaving nice, relatively clean roots. I then strung some of this through one of the openings in the bottom of the net pot, and filled the netpot up with the clean hydroton. Put the net pot in the lid and repeat until all of the holes have plants in them!
Let it Grow!
I have mine in a window under a Hydrofarm Jump Start Grow Lamp, but it's probably going to just go outside in a sunny location after a few days, once the threat of really cold weather is past (we're having some high winds today and the low is going to be around 38 tomorrow night but after that, I think it's all very spring like!)
I'm about 90% sure that my seedlings will die in a few days and that will be the end of my hydroponics experiment. But who knows. I'll be sure to post updates.
Here are some pictures!
Hydroponic nutrients and ph control stuff.
My hydroponic DWC grow system.
Close up of the little plants in their hydroton-filled net pots.
Not a great picture but you can see the roots sticking out there!